Fans are torn on the aesthetics of the Blackhawks alternate sweaters, and the emotional like/dislike of the uniform often boils over into an assumption that play is improved or hurt when the team wears them.
But now that the Blackhawks have played six games in the alternate sweaters this year, is there a noticeable difference?
First of all, the Hawks are 3-3 in the alternates this year; considering the team is 26-20-4 overall, the fact that they’re .500 in the alternates doesn’t seem to indicate that, as a team, the Blackhawks are any better or worse.
What about specific players, though?
After looking at the numbers, some players are noticeably better in the alternate sweaters. Some… not so much. Here are a few players that have shown intriguing trends this year:
The Hawks’ captain has six points (two goals, four assists) and is minus-three, winning 64.5 percent of his faceoffs (78/121). His scoring, at one point per game, and his robust faceoff percentage, are all ahead of his season totals, but his plus-minus is well off his season total; Toews is plus-10 in the Hawks’ traditional sweaters.
Keith has an even plus-minus in the six games, but has racked up eight assists. For the season, Keith has 25 assists in 50 games, but nearly one-third of his helpers have come in the six games in the alternate sweaters.
Kopecky is having a career year, but the alternate sweaters haven’t treated him well at all. He hasn’t registered a single point and is minus-seven.
Bryan Bickell and Troy Brouwer
The Hawks two under rated power forwards have been exceptional in these six games this year. They have scored six goals with two assists and are plus-one combined in the six games (12 combined) this year, but their impact has been bigger than that. The two have added 43 hits, a combined average of over seven per contest.
For the season, Bickell and Brouwer have scored 54 points in 97 combined games and are plus-12, while each has been a physical force on the ice of late.
Crawford has been pretty good in the alternate sweaters this year. He is 3-2, but one of the losses was in relief of Marty Turco when he allowed two goals against nine shots. In his four starts in the alternate sweaters, Crawford has allowed eight goals and has a .922 save percentage.
Oddly enough, the Hawks special teams have both played better in the alternate sweaters than they have the rest of the season. The team has killed nine of ten penalties (90%) in the alternate sweaters this year, while they have only killed 117 of 151 (77.5%) in their traditional sweaters.
Similarly, the Hawks league-leading power play has been even better in the third jerseys. The Hawks have converted five of 18 power plays (27.8 percent), which is ahead of their overall season conversion percentage (25.5%).
How does this year’s start in the alternate sweaters compare to last year’s games in the third jerseys?
Last year, the Blackhawks were 7-5, including three shootout victories, in their alternates, outscoring opponents on average 3.25 to 2.75 per game; of the 12 games played, five were decided by one goal. While last year’s team played to roughly their elite penalty killing status by successfully killing 90% of opponents’ chances (36 of 40), the Hawks power play in the alternate sweaters was atrocious – 15.6% (7 of 45).